This is my second blog sharing some of your longer stories, you can catch up on part one here.

These stories are hard to read but even harder to experience and so I believe that sharing them, speaking about them and learning from them is of the utmost importance.


The first story I am sharing has been written by a theatre sister of many years experience. To make the story accessible, I am also sharing a glossary of terms to help those who are not medically trained.


Glossary

PPH - postpartum haemorrhage - heavy bleeding following the birth of a baby

Pulmonary embolism - a blood clot which has travelled to a lung artery, blocking blood flow

Lithotomy position - a position where you are lying on your back with your legs in the air with your knees supported in stirrups.

Shoulder dystocia - where one or both of babies shoulders get stuck during a vaginal delivery

Dural tap - this can occur following an epidural. The needle can puncture the dura (membranes which cover your brain and spinal cord) causing cerebospinal fluid to leak out. This can cause a severe headache following birth.

 

'After delivering my first baby I had a significant haemorrhage which was documented at 700mls but - as a theatre sister of 9 years experience at that point - I’d estimated it closer to 1200mls. My query at the volume was not acknowledged. I was sent for a shower, unaccompanied, and fainted on the shower floor. I continued to pass large clots (the size of tennis balls) on the postnatal ward, yet was told this was normal.

I was discharged despite having had no bloods taken which is indicated in both RCOG and RCM guidelines following PPH. A week later I was severely breathless and very weak and so went to the GP as I was convinced I had a pulmonary embolism having spent so long in the lithotomy position whilst having my perineum pieced back together. The GP was very thorough and felt that my lungs were clear but that I was anaemic and requested bloods. These indeed showed that I’d dropped my haemoglobin by 4 grams and corroborated my estimate of 1200mls blood loss at the time of delivery.


Whilst pregnant with my second, for many reasons I requested a section. The primary reason was that he was measuring so large that they wanted to enter me into a shoulder dystocia trial, which I declined. As a theatre sister of 12 years experience by this point, I was well aware of the potential outcomes of shoulder dystocia presentations and also the risks of Caesarian delivery and so my choice was an informed one. My request was denied.


Thankfully, due to my NHS role, I was able to contact a consultant who offered to perform a section. After delivery, I was discharged 24 hours after I went into theatre. 24 HOURS!! It still shocks me now. 48hours post delivery I began to experience crippling migraines which were worsened by standing. I could not balance. It felt like my head was 10ft behind me. I had tinnitus. My own voice sounded muffled. My blood pressure was high but “not high enough to send you to triage”. When I asked the midwive(s) if they thought I had a dural tap they said I, “couldn’t have a dural tap because you only get those with epidurals”.


72 hours post delivery I left my breastfed baby at home (thanks covid) whilst my mum drove me to maternity triage to be assessed. Thankfully I saw an anaesthetist colleague in the corridor on the way in. She assessed me and confirmed that I had a dural tap. She wanted to admit me but I needed to be at home with my baby. She asked the midwives if she could send me home with Oromorph for the pain, they said no. The follow up from the anaesthetic department was however faultless.


It may also be worth noting that despite my son having a severe cows milk protein and soya allergy which resulted in his skin falling off, faltering growth and reflux so severe that he developed a feeding aversion and would vomit multiple times a day, we have never seen a health visitor. I phoned them sobbing because I did not know how I could help him as his reflux was so severe and I was so concerned about his weight and they recommended that I took some time for myself (away from an inconsolable breastfed baby in lockdown), had a pizza (he has a cows milk protein allergy), stopped drinking sparkling water (as that would make him fussy; definitely not his allergies) and purchased some scales to weigh him.


When he was 6 weeks old and his skin started falling off and he had profuse diarrhoea, I asked his GP if he thought he had an allergy; he told me in no uncertain terms that he did not. Thankfully we have medical insurance and so have been under the care of a truly wonderful consultant and paediatric dietitian however the care he has received from the NHS has been notable only by its total absence. Within 5 minutes of examining my then 16 week old, his consultant said that he was presenting with one of the most severe reactions that he had seen.


I realise that there is an enormous amount of privilege attached to this story. I am privileged because I’m a medical professional, because I work in theatre and so alongside people that I knew could help me if I needed them and because we have the means to pay for private healthcare. My daughter has just turned 4 and my son is 1 and it still upsets me every day to think of the women and children who are suffering both physically and psychologically because they are unable to access the care and support that they need.'



'More information and support for mums about postpartum as a whole. No information about possible birth trauma (physical and mental), no support or information on what to expect in postpartum and what is "normal" and what isn't.


No information was given about:

- Signs of wound infection, what is normal pain and what you should flag to midwife/GP.

- Signs of prolapse and how long bladder weakness can last after birth

- Diastasis recti. It wasn't even mentioned, let alone checked.

-FAQ's, such as sex after having stitches/giving birth. How long it takes for your uterus to shrink. Saggy skin, normalising postpartum bodies.

- What's just normal hormones and what's PND'



'I had a postpartum bleed in recovery following my section which required the crash team to save me. This was not noted on my notes in any way other than the volume of blood lost, no mention of my dangerously low bp or the numerous things I was injected with. On the maternity ward I was refused oromorph on day 2, I was sporadically given my meds and treated like I was being a pain when I cried or demanded pain relief. I couldn’t stand, bend and was constantly faint from anaemia. My hubby was refused entry after leaving to look after our son and I was alone for 5 days. Not once was my wound checked, my two IVs were filthy, uncovered and one was not bunged. At home my wound was checked once, it broke down at one end, my mental health went bad again yet I was still discharged. I felt abandoned by the teams I’d had throughout my pregnancy and had no one to turn to.'


 

To share your postpartum story, please email zoe@postpartummatters.co.uk or DM me @postpartum_matters.


I hope that by sharing our stories, we can change the conversation from ' bouncing back' to resting and recovering. And, as a society, we can start caring for and holding space for those who are postpartum.

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